Jojoba: More than You Think
by Robert L. Butler
We must define “jojoba.” It’s a jungle out there, and not all jojoba products are created equal. You find bottles of jojoba labeled “cold pressed,” “refined,” “expeller pressed”, “jojoba oil,” and “unrefined.” What do these different labels mean? What is the quality of the product inside the container?
The word “jojoba” is a noun; it refers both to the plant and to the extract of the seed, which the female jojoba plant produces.
We use the word “extract” advisedly. One often sees “jojoba” used in conjunction with the word “oil.” While it is a superior lubricant (and much, much more), jojoba is not oil. This fact does not dissuade most purveyors of jojoba and/or jojoba products from calling it “oil.” We believe such labels miss the point. Jojoba is unique and should not be grouped, or confused, with oils. Pure jojoba does not contain triglycerides, which are susceptible to oxidation. Sweet almond, avocado, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, cranberry, and other nut or seed oils contain triglycerides and turn rancid. Jojoba is not triglyceride oil and does not turn rancid. Likewise, jojoba is non-allergenic, non-comedogenic, and does not stain. All who call jojoba “oil” would be alarmed and upset were one to group it with “mineral oil,” a derivative of hydrocarbons.
In fact, jojoba is a liquid wax ester. The Madison Avenue crowd and the processors and manufacturers who talk about “jojoba oil” both misappreciate the product and misinform their public.
When considering a purchase of jojoba, you need to remember the terms expeller pressed, solvent extracted, unrefined, blended, and refined. It’s also important to know about “first press jojoba meal” and “second press jojoba meal.”
“Expeller pressed” and “solvent extracted” refer to the processes by which jojoba is obtained.
An expeller press is the machine into which jojoba seed is introduced. Out of one end of the expeller comes first press jojoba; out of the other end comes first press jojoba meal. “Expelling” is a physical process and should not entail chemical pre-treatments of any nature. After the expelling, the first, or “virgin” press jojoba is pasteurized and filtered. The amber-golden liquid thus obtained is called unrefined jojoba. “Unrefined” means nothing has been done to compromise the natural and pure integrity of the first press jojoba.
The first press meal is immediately run through a second expeller press, operated in tandem with the first expeller press. The second press jojoba, obtained from the first press meal, is typically refined. Refining is necessary because the second press jojoba does
not compare in quality to the jojoba extracted from the seed, itself. Second press jojoba is dark in color and has a strong odor. It does not penetrate as readily into the skin. It is not a product, which is merchantable to retail markets. Consequently, second press jojoba is refined, in order to make it suitable for manufacturers and others.
The refining process varies; it is dependent upon the requirements of the processor’s customers. The general intent is to produce a product conforming to specifications, which meet the exacting demands of cosmetics and personal care manufacturers. During refining, second press jojoba is typically de-odorized, de-gummed, neutralized, de-colored, and stabilized, usually with synthetic tocopherols (forms of vitamin E) and nitrogen. (During refining the natural alpha, delta and gamma tocopherols present in jojoba seed and consequently in first and second press jojoba may be destroyed.) The focus of the refiner is to obtain a colorless and odorless product, which combines well with cosmetic ingredients, or, which can be used to produce derivatives.
Second press jojoba and refined jojoba may be blended and then de-odorized. The refined jojoba lightens the second press jojoba; de-odorizing makes the blend more palatable to the olfactory experience. If you are purchasing golden jojoba, it is very important to ask whether the jojoba you are purchasing is a blend, or is unrefined. Your supplier should know the answer.
The last part of the jojoba puzzle concerns solvent extraction. Second press meal is “washed” in a solvent, typically hexane. The “washing” is then subjected to very high temperatures, the objective being to evaporate away the solvent so only the solvent extracted jojoba remains. Solvent extracted jojoba may be blended with second press jojoba to lighten the second press product. It is also used in industrial applications and, as in the case of refined jojoba, to produce jojoba derivatives.
“Cold Pressed” Jojoba
You often see bottles of pure jojoba with “cold pressed” on the label. Purchasers are led to believe no heat was produced during processing. In fact, heat cannot be avoided during processing. The jojoba seed, itself, is quite hard. Pressing does require pressure, which produces friction, which produces heat. If a bottle of golden jojoba is labeled “cold pressed,” read “expeller pressed,” instead, provided you’re certain the contents of the bottle do not contain a blend of refined and second press product.
We make no pretenses about our own bias here. In our view, unrefined, virgin, expeller pressed jojoba is the only jojoba variant, which should be used on human skin. It is the purest form of the product, guaranteed, when pressed properly, to deliver the natural goodness of the seed.
When we discuss “jojoba” in this article, we are referring to unrefined, virgin, expeller pressed jojoba, only.